Climate protesters in UK barred from using beliefs as legal defense

Climate protesters in UK barred from using beliefs as legal defense

Court of Appeal ruling limits avenues for environmental activists charged with criminal damage

AP Photo/Frank Augstein

Environmental activists accused of criminal damage in the UK will no longer be able to rely on their political or philosophical beliefs about climate change as a legal defense, according to a ruling issued Monday by London’s Court of Appeal.

The decision effectively prevents protesters from using their convictions about the dangers posed by global warming to justify acts of property destruction, even if motivated by raising awareness. It comes amid a wider crackdown on direct action protest movements across Britain and the far left, Reuters reports.

Various campaign groups, including Extinction Rebellion and Just Stop Oil, have targeted companies and political parties with property damage as part of their environmental activism. Some of their members have faced criminal damage charges as a result.

Monday’s appellate ruling stemmed from a case last year where nine Extinction Rebellion activists were acquitted of smashing windows at an HSBC bank branch in London. The court was asked by Attorney General Victoria Prentis to clarify whether beliefs about climate change could serve as a legal defense.

“Climate change is an important issue and while the right to protest must be protected it does not give a right to cause serious criminal damage no matter how strongly held a belief is,” Prentis said in a statement welcoming the decision.

The ruling drew criticism from environmental groups, with Extinction Rebellion co-founder Clare Farrell arguing it would “criminalize” non-violent protest by removing a potential defense against damage charges.

Under English law, defendants can claim a defense if the property owner would have theoretically consented had they understood the circumstances behind the damage.

A tiny bit of sense popping up in the UK?

1 point

We’ve a fair way to go yet…